A small bit of news from New York Times took a lot of people by surprise: Google experiments with video ads in the search results pages. The intention was announced last year, when Google launched Universal Search, a new format that integrates images, videos, books and other types of content in the main search results and also provides additional information for some web pages. For example, Google shows a thumbnail, the duration and the rating next to videos, while providing the option to play the video inline. This is a big shift from the regular format that only included ten blue links and some small snippets.
Obviously, Google will introduce video ads conservatively, without disrupting the entire experience. The ads will continue to be mostly text, but they'll include the option to play a short video. Google's Marissa Mayer "said, however, that the company would explore adding small thumbnail photos to the video ads as well. And a spokesman said the company is considering testing other formats that may include ads with images."
"The big insight of Google wasn't text ads; it was that the ads should be conducive to the format. We were doing text-based search that was all textual. Visual ads don't work in that format. With universal search, something is getting shaken up a bit on the bottom part of the page. The ads on the top part of the page should match," thinks Marissa Mayer.
Google already experiments with local ads that include maps, addresses and driving directions, mimicking the search results connected with local information. In July 2007, Google's promotion for Bourne Ultimatum included the option to watch a movie trailer inline.
"For us, ads are answers as well" is the phrase that sums up these changes and reflects how difficult is to keep the balance between organic search results and ads. "You will not be distracted by image ads or video ads on Google search results pages. Period. Just because other companies use image ads and video ads with the _purpose_ of distracting users doesn't mean Google will do that. Images and videos can be useful and entertaining, if you see them when you want to see them," clarified Daniel Dulitz in a Slashdot thread.
If you spot a video ad in Google's search results, take a screenshot and post a link to it in the comments.
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